Science of happy

May 02 2020


The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.

YOU have infection. There is a medicine for your infection. You take the medicine. Medicine will cure the infection. You will be happy. Conclusion: Medicine makes you happy.

There is a new infection. There is no medicine for the new infection. You cannot take the medicine when there is no medicine. So you do not get OK. You will not be happy. You need medicine to make you happy. So you must make medicine. Making medicine will — rationally speaking — get medicine made. You will take this medicine. Then you will get OK. You will be happy. Conclusion: making medicine makes you happy.

You will make medicine when you know how to make medicine. You know how to make medicine only when you know the science of making medicine. You will know this science when someone will teach you. That teacher will teach you if she works in a college or university that houses the knowledge of science.

This science will be used by companies to make medicine. This medicine will make them make money. Companies will give some of this money to the university that makes science. The university will use the money to do research and make better science. You will learn better science. Then you will work in companies to make better medicine. You will also make money. You will be happy. Company will be happy. University will be happy. Sick person will be happy.

Conclusion: science makes you happy.

But what if you don’t have science that makes medicine? Or universities that teach this science that makes the medicine? Or the companies that give money to universities so they make science that companies will use to make medicine that will make them rich and make you healthy?

So far, the national leadership has been telling us what it cannot do.

Then you be like us. You be like Pakistan. Pakistan does not have science that makes medicine that will make you happy. Pakistan has no science because kings of Pakistan do not like science. So they do not make universities that make science that build people who make companies that use science and those who know science from those universities to make medicine and make money and make themselves rich and make their companies rich and make their university rich and make their government rich and — of course — make their country rich.

But we in Pakistan do not have this science so we do not have the medicine to make us healthy from the coronavirus. We cannot buy the medicine because no one has the medicine. So what do we do? Ah!

We hope.

What do we hope for? We hope that people who have science will soon make the medicine so we can buy it and take it and be healthy and be happy. We do not hope any hope from our science because there is little hope there and also because our hope is a convenient substitute for science. So we hope for the best for those whose hope is backed by science, not substituted for it. We hope those who have science will make good use of that science to make us healthy. And happy.

Conclusion: hope makes you happy.

Hope also makes you policy. When you be like us, that is. We hope the virus will not get out of control. We hope the lockdown easing will not make matters worse. We hope opening of mosques will not trigger an avalanche of infections. We hope our hospitals will cope with the pressure of patients. We hope our health workers will not get infected too much. We hope the curve will flatten by July. We hope our self-belief has medicinal qualities. We hope the Sindh government will choke on its performance.

Hope is our plan of action.

Ours is a policy of hope garnished with a pinch of data, a tablespoon of PowerPoint, a drizzle of lockdown and a sprinkling of projection graphs tossed with some thinly sliced thinking — all served in an ornate dish of ideologically-fuelled, politically charged hypothesised intuition.

So eight weeks and eighteen thousand infections later, we stare into the barrel of this hope waiting for men and women of science to pull the trigger of some cure with a muzzle velocity that can blast through thick layers of dogma that shrouds our notions of contentment wrapped in a policy of unvarnished hope.

There’s another problem though: hope cannot kill a virus, but it can kill rationality. Last we checked, rationality was the basic ingredient for intelligent policymaking. Rationality therefore dictates a healthy respect for rules of natural sciences. Two plus two will always be four till hope makes it five. When infected people come near other people, they will infect them. Till of course, hope makes them not infect them.

Rationality also dictates that leaders explain their policy in rational terms. When they try to bridge the deficit in rationality with domestic and foreign borrowing of hope, the communication budget will not balance. Intelligent leaders who make intelligent policy bank on rationality because it has a very high interest rate value among citizens.

So far, the national leadership has been telling us what it cannot do: we cannot do a lockdown because we do not have the capacity to ensure such a lockdown; we cannot provide sustenance to all citizens who need it because we do not have the resources to spend and we do not have the data to find them; we cannot tell the provinces what they should do because we do not have the constitutional powers (and therefore we cannot have a consensus) — the net negatives go on and on and on.

There was once a politician who won an election on a slogan ‘Yes we can’. Today, faced with the biggest crisis in generations, our national leadership’s slogan appears to be: ‘No we can’t’.

Starved for science and starved for rationality, we live on hope. So does our government. At least we are in it together.

Togetherness makes us happy?

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.


Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2020